The Geelong Defence Alliance – Local Government and the War Industry

The Australian Defence Department intends to increase its infrastructure spending over the next 15 years to $8 billion dollars. Hoping to cash in on this budget expansion, Geelong City Council (GCC), together with the Geelong Manufacturing Council (GMC) have established the so-called ‘Geelong Defence Alliance’ (GDA) in order to attract local investment. 

A brochure titled ‘Geelong is defence ready’ boasts of Geelong’s strategic location, advanced manufacturing sector and Deakin Universities research facilities. Already, 32,000 square metres have been set aside in the Avalon industrial precinct for the Korean multinational corporation Hanwha’s $170 million dollar ‘Armoured Vehicle Center of Excellence.’ Recharge Industries will also be developing a $300 million dollar lithium ion battery cell production facility for the purposes of supplying the military.

The Geelong Times quotes Labor Defence Minister and member for Corio Richard Marles claiming the development of the Armoured Vehicle Center is about ‘maintaining peace, security and prosperity in our region’. History however suggests that ‘peace, security and prosperity’ means the maintenance of the interests of Australian and American imperialism in the Indo-Pacific. Nations such as Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands are treated as colonies by the Australian state.

It has already been announced that the Federal government plans to spend an obscene amount of $368 billion on nuclear submarines as part of the Australia United Kingdom United States military alliance (AUKUS). Following the recent Defence Strategic Review (DSR) it has also been revealed that more American troops will flow through military bases in northern Australia, along with armament of long-range missiles. These developments are clearly part of increasing tensions with China.

Until now Geelong’s role in Australia’s military has been minimal. Besides the Newland barracks in the city the only other real connection is the yearly Avalon airshow. With the Geelong Defence Alliance this will change and the regional economy will become more integrated into Australian militarism. 

The armoured vehicle center was originally commissioned by the previous Liberal government to build 30 self-propelled howitzers and 15 armoured ammunition resupply vehicles. However the DSR has suggested that national production be cut from 90 to 45. This does not necessarily affect production in Geelong, but the further cutting of 450 infantry fighting vehicles to 129, also set to be built in Avalon, will.

Geelong Times also quotes Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson shedding crocodile tears regarding these cuts:

“In stripping $1 billion of investment from the region.. Richard Marles [has] broken Geelong’s heart… Mr Marles has turned his back on working families and the local jobs on which they depend’.

By this, she doesn’t mean actual working class families, who are bearing the brunt of inflation as cost-of-living prices continue to trend upwards. Henderson means the owners of businesses like Waurn Ponds based Hannagan Solutions, who will be developing camouflage textiles for military vehicles and infantry

However the reality is that nothing really breaks the heart of working families like war. Her comments are sickening in the face of very real needs local working families have during a cost-of-living crisis and local budget cuts. Geelong should not be producing weapons of death and destruction when we are in dire need of investment in social housing, medical facilities and clean energy. This is particularly pertinent in the case of the Recharge Industries development, who could be supplying batteries for the transition to renewables rather than supplying the war machine.

As revolutionary socialists we must always maintain an opposition to imperialist war, illustrating its devastating effects upon working people of every nation and the absurdity of capitalist competition. While maintaining a global perspective, the local anti-war movement should look to act upon things it can immediately influence – the Geelong Defence Alliance and the Hanwha armoured vehicle center are prime subjects for disruptive opposition. The local labour movement should also oppose such developments. The people of Geelong deserve meaningful and well paying jobs that don’t involve building weapons for Australian imperialism.

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